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On Brexit: Britain Can’t and Shouldn’t Have It Both Ways

2016 October 10
tags: ,
by Mandos

…The chances are we’ve gone too far,
You took my time and you took my money,
Now I fear you’ve left me standing,
In a world that’s so demanding…

— New Order, “True Faith”

In this post, I discuss the options for the UK in its relationship to the EU after the Brexit vote, particularly in light of the fact that Theresa May’s government has decided that freedom of labour movement is to be sacrificed on the altar of the hostility towards immigration–which is held to have driven much of the support for Leave. It is also increasingly clear that the EU will take a harsh view of British attempts to separate trade access to the EU from the access of EU citizens to British work opportunities. I argue that, overall, this position is justified and mostly reflects an EU leadership representing the interests of their citizens in the face of a United Kingdom that, for whatever reason, believes that it can take what it believes to be the beneficial parts of its relationship with continential Europe and leave behind what it mostly (and wrongly) considers to be the costly parts. I make this argument despite a dislike of and disagreement with some of the governing attitudes in continental Europe: The historic demands of conservative, Eurosceptic UK politicians would have exacerbated what is bad about the EU and attenuated what is good about it.

The Taxonomy of Brexits

In practice, the European Union is actually a constellation (or maybe nebula) of treaty-defined entities. An EU member is a country that participates in a certain subset of them, but not necessarily all of them (there is of course a more formal definition, but I am talking about the institutional mechanics)–the UK is one of the exemplars of this choice. Conversely, there are countries that participate in some of the EU institutions, but are not members–the best exemplar of this is Norway, which participates in the single market, the unified visa area under Schengen, in the scientific bodies, and pays a significant charge in lieu of membership dues.

We are now months after the Brexit referendum returned a clear Leave result (52-48 is not a small margin, and immediate do-overs after buyer’s remorse is a democratically terrible idea), and the United Kingdom faces a choice in how to implement the referendum. The taxonomy of choices resolves to two major taxa of future possibilities: “hard” or “soft” Brexit. Under a “hard” Brexit, the UK effectively reverts unilaterally to a mostly exterior relationship with the countries of the European Union without (much) special status or access to EU-related institutions. The UK becomes like a nearby Canada, in other words. There’s no question that the border will remain open for Brits to visit the EU, but they will likely do so under the same visa waiver terms under which Canadians and Australians live, which generally excludes labour competition with EU citizens and permanent residents, outside of designated priority professions. Goods and services will have to be negotiated by treaty separately, but they will have to be agreed-upon by the entire EU, meaning that everything, absolutely everything, would be on the table, and more favorable terms than the current access to the single market would not be on offer.

Under “soft” Brexit, the UK becomes, in practice, mostly like Norway. That is, it would retain access to the single market, have to pay dues, and remain a participant in many of the institutions–but will emerge from the direct, if often only superficial, supervision of the European Commission. Much less, in terms of the UK’s real capabilities, would change, but some aspects of internal policy and regulation become officially independent of EU authority, and much influence in EU institutions would, of course, be lost.

The division between these two types of Brexits turns out to revolve around one issue: The separability of the Four Freedoms of the European Single Market. These are: freedom of movement of (1) goods; (2) labour; (3) capital, and; (4) services. These freedoms, presently well-entrenched in the EU treaty framework, are supposed to guide convergence towards a fully-implemented, single market (meaning: It’s not fully implemented). If, as a Leave supporter, your problem with the EU lies elsewhere, for instance, in its economic regulatory framework, then you would still be willing to accept the Four Freedoms, and soft Brexit is an option that other EU partners would accept in overall good faith, especially since the departure of Britain from the rest of the EU’s convergence framework would enable other agenda items, that the UK has deliberately hindered, to go forward with minimal overall disruption.

Economic Freedom as Compromise

If, however, your problem with the EU is with the implementation of the Four Freedoms, then, Houston, you have a real problem as a Brexiteer. Because every country in the EU has some significant sectors vulnerable or sensitive to one or more of the Four Freedoms. The Four Freedoms establishes a relatively simple guiding framework for compromise among these issues. I hope that it is not too difficult to see that allowing countries to withdraw in spirit and practice from one or more of these freedoms, while retaining full privileges on the rest, is a recipe for disaster for the entire Single Market project, because some countries would become “free riders” to the detriment of the other countries, which would in turn cause the disadvantaged countries to withdraw from other freedoms, in a downward spiral that would dismantle European economic unity.

The Four Freedoms and the regulatory framework that accompanies them makes the Single Market a far superior trading arrangement to treaties like NAFTA, and, yes, TTIP. The common regulatory framework, needless to say, impedes (however, does not prevent) the degree of race-to-the-bottom behaviour that you see in NAFTA-like deals, by creating a regulatory and arbitration system that is, yes, considerably more accountable to the public than the infamous investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) that is a common practice in bilateral treaties. European, particularly British critics, decry the European Commission and its institutions as being very distant from popular sovereignty, and the criticism is true, to some extent; but that the road to accountability is long does not mean that there is no road at all, in contrast to international arbitration tribunals, which are sensitive to very little.

But more importantly, the free movement of labour is essential if you decide you want to have free trade at all. It is increasingly clear that trade deals like NAFTA, alleged to lift poor countries out of poverty by exporting low-skilled economic activity to these countries, actually have deleterious effects on developing countries. Mexico has experienced a great labour dislocation from exposure to competition from sectors that were domestically important but more productive and heavily subsidized in the US. Free movement of labour at least slightly ameliorates this by permitting workers in sectors negatively affected by this dislocation to find work in countries that directly benefited from it (overall). Because NAFTA does not lift border controls on the free movement of labour, Mexican workers who go where the work has gone (to the US) cannot send back remittances that reflect the higher US value of their labour, because they live under a wage-suppressive environment of immigration control. Needless to say, US workers do not benefit from the immigration controls as much as they are told.

What UK Eurosceptics are demanding, when they demand immigration controls for EU labour while retaining access to freedom of goods, capital, and services, is that UK business be able to profit from access to new markets in Bulgaria and Romania, countries that cannot yet compete in productivity with the UK, and yet fail to offer Bulgarian and Romanian workers the ability to improve their lot and their skills in higher-wage, higher-productivity environments with UK domestic labour protection, such as exist. It should not be hard to see why this is toxic.

European Unity and Freedom of Movement

The choice that Theresa May seems to be making is for a hard Brexit, particularly as signaled by some public pronouncements suggesting that existing EU-citizen workers in the UK would not be fully protected and grandfathered into the post-Brexit arrangement–that is, they are being designated as bargaining chips. The only condition under which it makes sense to use their status as a bargaining chip is to make an attempt for the UK to have privileged access to the EU without accepting any reciprocal obligations. (Whether it is actually possible to use them as bargaining chips this way is another matter.)

For the choice to be something in the middle between a hard and a soft Brexit, the EU would have to allow cherry-picking among the four freedoms, and therefore its own demise as a political project. I have described some of the reasons for this above. The EU is not going to passively accept its own demise at the hands of right-wing British Eurosceptics, some of whom have made no secret of their desire not only for Britain to leave the EU, but for the EU project itself to fail.

The mistake of British Eurosceptics, at least those who care about maintaining a privileged economic relationship with the European Union, is to fail to understand many continental politicians and bureaucrats, and significant portions of the continental public really “mean it” when it comes to European convergence. While the spectre of WW2 hangs in the air, somewhat faded due to the inevitable passing of those who survived it, continental Europe has still had regular reminders that it, the originator of colonialism, is in the modern world now itself susceptible to divide-and-conquer politics steered by greater, exterior powers. Critics of the EU say that the democratic legitimacy of its institutions is undermined by the non-existence of a European “demos,” but policy-makers are well aware of that. That is the whole point of the convergence process. The EU, in fact, has programmes to encourage social relationships between citizens of member states, precisely out of a desire to ensure that a European demos emerges in a future generation, and, yes, the United States of Europe can thereby be finally constructed.

Freedom of labour movement is a element of the unification of peoples explicitly envisaged by the construction of the European Union. In addition to its role in helping the Single Market to be mutually beneficial, the workplace is a key element of social integration and the building of trust between peoples at an individual level. Among younger British people, the policy has already shown signs of working–one of the complaints of younger Brits about Brexit is precisely that they were the generation that had both the most developed European identity and the highest intention of taking advantage of freedom of labour movement, of educational movement, and other related European freedoms.

National and Personal Factors

I would be remiss if I stayed only at the “high” institutional levels when discussing the dilemma into which the EU must now force the UK. There is certainly a personal dimension that cannot be ignored. British Eurosceptic politicians and media, both UKIP and Tory, have attacked what most continental Europhiles, both official and otherwise, see as the emotional core of the EU project, and did so consistently and constantly, so much so that EU immigration is seen as a prime driver of the Leave vote. Indeed, so much so that Theresa May feels compelled to choose it over Single Market access. Anyone who believes that such a consistent attack on a core belief and life work of many European politicians and bureaucrats would have no effect on how the negotiation proceeds is fooling themselves. Greece’s and Syriza’s offense during the 2015 negotiations was to attempt to step off script and make it politically impossible for German politicians to sell the band-aid to their own public; this is nowhere near as offensive as a direct political attack on free labour movement. If the UK gets off this with less visible damage than Greece, it is only because the UK is, for various reasons, economically much stronger than Greece–and not a member of the Eurozone.

Furthermore, it evidently became a bad habit in UK politics to blame domestic policy failures on the EU. The UK was never a member of the Eurozone, and there is nothing about the EU that prevents the UK from running a more social-democratic economy than it has. It was always within the power of the UK to handle its own housing crisis, its economic inequality issues, its infrastructure issues, and so on. What flaws the EU has (and it definitely has flaws!) cannot be blamed for very many of the problems now viewed as causing the political alienation that has led to the Brexit vote. Now, yes, it is a common sport across the EU for national politicians to blame Brussels officials for preventing them from doing things, and this is often true: The Commission has known democratic legitimacy issues, even if it is better legitimized than ISDS arbitration tribunals. Eurocrats are used to serving as the “distant scapegoat” function. The problem is that UK politicians did not, apparently, know when to pull back, or they knew it and chose to go over the cliff anyway, because an internal Tory party battle was more important than keeping the European project together. EU negotiators are human; they are not going to simply accept that they were the cruel masters from whom the British people needed freeing.

Therein lies a major, unavoidable issue. There are parties, particularly in countries like France and the Netherlands, that would likewise wish to scapegoat Brussels for whatever goes wrong and sell an EU breakup as a panacea. Former (?) colonialist countries like France have populations that share the imperial nostalgia issues that right-wing British Eurosceptics do. It would be actually irresponsible if EU negotiators simply attempted to go for the narrow-sense, economically most mutually beneficial deal with the UK possible. It must be seen that the EU was not the author of British woes, but at worst neutral. This is quite a different situation from Greece and the Eurozone, where, in material terms, the structure of the Eurozone acted as a real straitjacket on Greek well-being and Greek fiscal democracy.

Brexit, Boiled Hard

If there’s anything underhanded about the EU position on these matters, the blame goes principally to the people who set up the EU treaties well before this point. The article 50 exit procedure is deliberately designed to disadvantage the exiter by turning the tables: Exit is turned into exclusion, and exclusion happens automatically after the (too-short) deadline. No negotiation is possible until the country in question puts on the article 50 dunce cap and sits in the corner of shame. The architects of European convergence have always been especially careful to ensure that convergence is a one-way procedure wherein departure is so costly as to be better to be avoided at all. This was done, to put it in Ianwelshian terms, because they thought it was the right thing. Otherwise, European convergence would not be externally credible, and its lack of external credibility would be a further invitation for foreign powers to play wedge games.

One may argue that a hard Brexit also damages Europe as it disrupts the flows that currently exist, and this is always costly. European leaders have made it crystal clear that the project is more important to them than the short-term cash flows. Just as the British say that they can find substitute buyers and sellers, so can the rest-of-EU–with, in some ways, greater efficiency, because manufacturing still significantly exists on the continent. And everyone, even German industry, knows that the destabilization caused by separation of the four freedoms of the Single Market would, in the medium term, be more costly than putting up tariffs against the UK, to be negotiated down in a later and less UK-favorable process than full UK membership.

In this instance, I do explicitly take a strongly EU-sympathetic position on this. The aftermath of the Leave campaign has shown that anti-immigrant hysteria, nationalist nativism, and colonial/imperial nostalgia had a major impact on the shape of this, not a major desire for either libertarian economics or left-wing fiscal expansion. These are real dangers and ought not to be rewarded by political victories. Even under a hard Brexit, it still remains fully within the power of UK politicians to ensure that ordinary people are at least exposed to only minimal immediate suffering, and if they are not willing to use their means to protect their people, we know, once-and-for-all, that the woes and alienation of the people of the UK were never because of Europe.

28 Responses
  1. October 10, 2016

    Usual pre-emptive disclaimer: look at the byline. This is a Mandos post, not Ian’s 🙂

    Also, check out this later post from Münchau’s mostly-for-pay blog, but this one is free:
    http://www.eurointelligence.com/public/briefings/2016-10-10.html

    Eurointelligence (Wolfgang Münchau’s baby) is one of the very few blogs I would consider paying for, aside from this one, and if I were doing this for a living I would definitely shell out for the paywall access (I don’t now). The people running it, especially Münchau, are rarely wrong and understand the institutional and economic context of European matters, and aren’t (too) blinded by ideology.

  2. V. Arnold permalink
    October 10, 2016

    I’m anti-globalist; pro nationalist/nativist.
    The reasons are legion; not the least of which is the people controlling the course are dishonest, greedy, self concerned and elitist.
    Globalism in my world is a wonderful thing; but it has been turned into a weapon in fact. A weapon aimed squarely at the very people with no voice in the course of their lives.
    Germany and France are prime examples of globalism gone very wrong.
    I also think this whole political (and it is very political) philosophy completely ignores the reality of human nature and the natural, cultural resistance to forced integration; humans are racist and exclusive by their very nature.
    No one can legislate that out of existance, regardless how much one wants to implement their agendas; and agendas they are.
    The whole cabal is a dishonest scam and it should very apparent looking at Germany and France.

  3. V. Arnold permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Addendum: This whole phenomina is driven by the U.S.’s hegemonic wet dream in the M.E., gone off the rails.
    Russia offers the only possibility of ending the U.S.’s destabilization of the M.E..
    If Russia prevails, the U.S. is finished in the M.E. and the world will wake to a new day…maybe…

  4. V. Arnold permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Further; these refugees want to go back home for the most part. Having watched a number of interviews, that appears to be the consensus.
    What’s to be gained by this forced emigration?
    Nothing but more instability in my opinion.
    As a self exiled person, I have some first hand knowledge of the travails of being in a culture 180° from the west and a language having zero in common with any in the west; especially English.

  5. October 10, 2016

    I’m anti-globalist; pro nationalist/nativist.

    By your description, I don’t think you’re nationalist/nativist in the sense that I meant it there. You dislike the way in which globalization has been steered, but are not driven by a variant of or successor/precursor to blood-and-soil ideology.

  6. October 10, 2016

    I also think this whole political (and it is very political) philosophy completely ignores the reality of human nature and the natural, cultural resistance to forced integration; humans are racist and exclusive by their very nature.
    No one can legislate that out of existance, regardless how much one wants to implement their agendas; and agendas they are.

    I wouldn’t deny that we have a sense of kinship, but it is the means by which it is extended beyond our immediate kin group that is not easily reducible to natural inclinations or some kind of embedded racial sense. Racist would-be ideologists, such as sometimes drop by these parts, believe that they are reflecting some kind of universal sense that is shared by everyone, but clearly portions of this are historically constructed and not shared by everyone. It’s like they assume that because they like the taste of cod liver oil, figuratively speaking, it must be that everyone else likes the taste of cod liver oil…

  7. Jeff Martin permalink
    October 10, 2016

    My problem with the EU’s Four Freedoms and the Euro project, as with NAFTA and its successor treaties, now being debated, is that they enshrine the democratic deficit at the core of the legal order of the nations party to the relevant agreements. One may argue over the details of the legislative procedures by which all of the agreements were adopted, ratified, whatever – and the respective statuses of different agreements and mechanisms – but it seems intuitively obvious to me that, had proponents of these treaties openly discussed both what they entailed as a matter of law and what was likely to ensue, practically, upon their implementation, public disapproval would have been overwhelming. Such agreements have always been sold to the public as reforms that will bring about a state of comity between nations, increase general prosperity, and basically result in every child having both a puppy and a pony. The realities of hot, speculative capital flows, regulatory arbitrage in some areas, convergence in others, mass immigration, the destruction of whole sectors of national economies, and the resultant marginalization of whole classes – even generations, in some societies – were not only not mentioned, even as possible consequences, but denied, either openly or implicitly. To make matters still worse, when folks began to voice their objections to the new regime and its consequences for their lives, they were first dismissed as rubes and bigots (and sometimes, they were), and eventually informed that their objections were misplaced because the immiseration of one section of the population, by the destruction of its employment, had made possible X% gains in well-being for Y millions in countries A-G, thus returning through the back door the very “zero-sum”, some will have to sacrifice argument that was explicitly rejected by the initial apologetic for the reforms. So, in the end, it is Who? Whom? just as the critics alleged in the early 90s, say.

    In fine, the reason for the rancour and distrust is not merely that there is bigotry rife within the masses of mankind, but that whole swathes of the populace were betrayed, rooked, and then mocked and degraded for the amusement of those who did they betraying and rooking. If one extends the benefit of the doubt to the constructors of the European project, and of NAFTA, etc., and assumes that they were all enlightened social democrats of the most impeccable convictions and intentions (which is, of course, far too generous by several orders of magnitude), it still remains that what they proposed was a multi-step process, with immense possibilities for slippage as one negotiated each transition. There never was a guarantee that, when the reforms were implemented, and whole communities and economic sectors were obliterated, the political system would bestir itself to redress the dislocations in precisely the correct manner. There are always too many contingencies in politics for that, even granting the best of intentions. However, the projects of globalization have always had a clear class valence: they are clearly in the interests of the elites and the professional classes who simultaneously serve elite interests and operations and aspire to ascend to the elite plane in the social hierarchy. Once one accounts for objective class interests in the unfolding of political ‘reform’ movements, it becomes rather difficult to assume as possible, to say nothing of probable, that the classes benefiting from the reforms will, having increased their wealth and power precisely by disempowering and immiserating the working classes, will immediately turn round and say, “Well, boys, now we have free trade and freedom of capital movement, what do say we tax ourselves a lot more to provide for the sort of social democracy that will cushion the lives of the workers?” The entire logic of the projects is the gradual attenuation of social democracy.

    And thus, the democratic deficit. It’s not that one could have expected the advocates of these policies to be honest with their electorates, admitting to them that most of them would suffer stagnant or declining living standards, all so that the professional classes could grab larger shares of a larger pie. No, it’s that the very proposal of such reforms, absent any binding mechanism to build social democracy concurrently with them, was a case of the elite hiving itself off from the rest of society, no longer professing to represent the people and their interests, at best implicitly claiming an identity of their class interests with the national/continental/international interest, and in practice governing strictly in their own interests. As the US could not – and still cannot, really – claim the mantle of democracy while maintaining Jim Crow, so the neoliberal elite cannot claim that mantle while deliberately, knowingly marginalizing and rubbishing large swathes of the societies they (mis)rule. Unless, of course, democracy is nothing more than the bare formalism of the ritual plebiscite, one of the formal freedoms of bourgeois society.

    In closing, since I have droned on a bit, I am dubious that integration can proceed beyond any horizon, wholly without limit – to take but one of the issues raised by the populist discontentments. The most tolerant and generous societies we’ve yet known, in Northern Europe, are now experiencing some of the same discontents that we witness in France, Germany, and the UK. While the ideational structures and symbols that transcend discrete tribes can mediate a common culture to diverse groups, or mediate multiple cultures to each other, it is not obvious that this process can or will continue indefinitely, either temporally or in terms of effectuating the union of cultures and tribes. There are always potential sources of friction and resistance. In fact, I’m not certain that wholly open labour/migration flows could ever be managed save by a combination of undemocratic policy-making and illiberal tutelary policies. People can be more tolerant than they are, this is certain. I don’t believe that large groups will ever be as tolerant as neoliberalism requires that they be.

  8. Synoia permalink
    October 10, 2016

    The Brexiteers point is both about sovereignty and immigration.

    The British see the results of the Euro, and congratulate themselves of having avoided the loss of sovereignty.

    Is it better to be in control of ones destiny, or to have the EU Directorate, ECB and others have control over your institutions?

    I link to this interview with Michael Hudson, which discusses the future of the current set of regimes in the world (Either debt is forgiven or we enter a new feudal age).

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=17387

    In addition, Climate Change will overwhelm all of this arguing.

    Debt which cannot be repaid, coupled with a planet with we appear determined to make uninhabitable.

  9. Hugh permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Excellent post, Mandos, and comment Jeff Martin.

    Brexit we should remember is only one part of the slow motion disintegration of Europe. Before it, we had the spectacle of the PIIGS, the North-South divide, the less publicized East-West divide, and in particular the Greek fiasco.

    From its outset the construction of Europe was riven with lies and contradictions. It was an elite project, although one at various times with popular appeal. Its elite constructors often chose simply to ignore or leave to be sorted out later core problems. They chose a strategy of increasing economic integration with the idea that this would promote (coerce?) political integration later. What this ignored was Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity and economic inequalities.

    I was talking with someone recently who said that when politicians talked about freedom, you should run because they were usually meaning your freedom to be poor and have no say. How do you reconcile, say, the survival of Danish or Dutch with the free movement of labor? Well, you can if that movement is small, but if it is larger, then it can have all kinds of effects: problems with integrating non-native speakers, depression of wages, the loss of cultural totems which are associated both with identity and quality of life, and of course language loss.

    We also need to understand that the role of kleptocracy in the construction of Europe. It was only ever incidentally about improving general standards of well-being. Mostly, it was about facilitating the predatory practices of the rich. The problem with Brexit is that while it may limit the trans-national, European brand of looting the British people, it will do nothing, and, if fact, might make worse the home grown version. Britain is afterall a heavily class-based society.

  10. October 10, 2016

    Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. I agree with many of the critiques of the EU, particularly the Single Currency — and made my position clear during last year’s Syriza episode. I also agree that unifying Europe comes at a cost and with significant risks, including an inherent and difficult question of democratic legitimacy.

    I will attempt to answer in greater detail maybe tomorrow, but while the iron is hot I will say this: I do believe that the globalization “chick” has hatched from the egg, and that there is probably no returning to an idyllic status quo ante prior to globalization, and possibly no real possibility of intentionally halting the progress of globalization, construed broadly in this case to mean human movement and transfer of goods and information, without deliberately inducing genocide-scale medium term suffering.

    Does that mean that I am a TINAist? I don’t agree that accepting the faits accomplis of globalization means that I think that there are no alternatives to what we have now. No, rather, I believe that it is possible and necessary to consider forms of globalization that are not so totally beholden to neoliberal ideology. I think that one of the positive lessons of the Single Market, as I say in the post, is that there are grades of “neoliberalness”. It’s very clear to me that some of the neoliberalism in Europe is not a necessary product of the EU’s institutional structure but the deliberate choices of those who inhabit that structure. For this reason, I don’t see Brexit as a means to jolt the system onto another course; quite the contrary.

  11. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Well-written and informative post, but I’m not sure how you ignore the elephant in the room, namely the defense of Europe’s external borders. The invasion of the “””Syrian””” Merkel Youth – not to mention the specter of Turkey being admitted to the union – showed that the EU cannot be trusted to defend Europe’s territory. It’s one thing to have open borders with Europeans, but Muslim Arabs and Africans? So it was Merkel and the EU leadership that torched the foundation for that one of the Four Freedoms, open internal borders. Why did they do it?

    Why would EU leaders undercut their own popular support? Interestingly, your post seems to address this indirectly by suggesting their “personal” or “emotional” investment in “the free movement of labor”. They are open-borders zealots — and not limited to intra-European borders (which was publicly known and had popular support), but also Europe’s external borders (which obviously was not and did not). So maybe they can’t help themselves. But I’m sure this apparent zealotry is partly just the relentless impetus of the money power: with internal growth drying up, it looks to labor arbitrage with the third world as the next frontier.

  12. Jeff Martin permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Mandos, I’ll wait for your further comments on the matter, but I’ll confess that I simply do not perceive how a halt to globalization would result in genocide-scale human suffering. Would that be actual genocides in the medium term, or merely suffering tantamount to genocide in the medium term, or suffering so severe in its dislocations that it surpasses most of what we now observe? I simply don’t see it, but maybe I’ve missed something. I, for one, don’t propose to deport however many millions of Latin Americans are present in the US without papers. However, neither do I propose to throw open the borders, which would cause the implosion of every institution and organization in Western societies – charities, churches, governments, etc. – with the exception of the less scrupulous members of a generally unscrupulous class, the capitalists, who would make out like bandits.

    I could state my position more succinctly and more forcefully, to wit: the dream of globalization produces monsters: like the Goya etching. What I mean is this: there is no theory of representative government, let alone a democratic form thereof, and no institutional form of such governance, which can survive contact with the forms and processes of globalization. The reality of globalization involves governing elites ceasing to act on behalf of their nations, seeking to find some modus vivendi for all of the factions within their nations, as they instead act on behalf of some faction(s) within their nations and within other nations, and against (an)other faction(s) in their societies, who are adversely affected by the “reforms”. It is an attenuation of representation, and a concomitant detachment of elites from their society; invariably this detachment not only leads them to cease representing some people in their society, and to elevate the interests of some people abroad over those disfavoured domestic groups, but to pursue their own interests in connection with the reforms. This is precisely what we have seen in the second great era of globalization. This is also precisely why all of the manifestations of populist discontent have provoked anti-democratic temper-tantrums from elites, who now assert even more forcefully the assumed imperative of elite, technocratic governance, and publish splenetic op-eds bemoaning the pointlessness of a democracy that doesn’t simply ratify elite preferences, much like a plebiscite in an Eastern Bloc country – and not only op-eds, but whole books, arguing that vast percentages of the populace should be disenfranchised, by means of postmodern forms of tests once used to disqualify blacks from the franchise, something liberals then opposed.

    So: globalization in practice: undemocratic. Globalization in theory: hard to see how it could be otherwise. Apologists have obligingly handed the skeptics like me the proofs, in the form of all of those, “Oh, who cares about the working class in America! Look at the millions of Chinese who have been elevated to the Chinese lower middle class as a result of free trade!” arguments. Not only did the zero-sum reality return, but the apologists conceded that they… represented the interests of Chinese workers, as against Americans. Now, it is not my point to argue that the Chinese should somehow, now, be re-impoverished. No, my point is just that, if we are to have a representative government, our representatives must represent us, and not some combination of their class, some domestic allies, and people abroad. That’s oligarchy, not democracy, even republicanism. This is why the only sustained – and now bleeding away – gains for the working classes came within nation-states with representative governments, and why those gains are evaporating as both the nation-state and representative government are tunneled under by globalization.

  13. Some Guy permalink
    October 11, 2016

    “Usual pre-emptive disclaimer: look at the byline. This is a Mandos post, not Ian’s”

    Yes, I got to the end and thought, “Ian has lost his mind”, then I looked at the byline. Not that it is a bad post, just that I disagree with the premises and conclusions in ways I don’t normally disagree with Ian. For example, the notion that anyone who votes to restrict immigration needs to be punished, which seems to be the underlying argument.

    As the problems pile up, I wonder why immigration into the West is *so* important to the 1% that they will sacrifice everything rather than back down an inch on this issue. Brexit could easily have been avoided with concessions in that area, as could Trump as could so many other threats to the 1%. Are they just that arrogant, or is immigration that important to them for some reason?

  14. Some Guy permalink
    October 11, 2016

    Also, people should not be scared off by the length of Jeff’s comment right above mine – it is exactly right and worth your time.

  15. October 11, 2016

    There is no such thing as ‘soft’ Brexit, nor was there any suggestion during the campaign that we should stay in the single market. The latter is just another red herring thrown up by the remainiacs. The tariffs we shall have to pay on our exports into the EU after leaving the customs union will average about 4.5% whereas we have already gained over 10% from devaluation. There is no need for any deal with the EU, and every day Theresa May’s government dithers and delays is costing us over £100m, both from continued payments into the EU’s budget and from lost import tariff revenues.

    There is no evidence that immigration benefits the British economy – in fact quite the reverse (see jepoynton.com/2016/05/08/the-economic-consequesces-of-immigration). If we want employers to invest in the training of our school leavers and in the new technology that creates economic growth then we must remove the easy option of employing cheap labour from overseas – which also deprives their own countries of much-needed and expensively trained skills. Immigration also fuels the housing crisis which is causing not only homelessness but also an increasing wealth gap between the generations. It is highly toxic and divisive.

    We have a massive trade deficit as well as a massive fiscal deficit, both of which are a threat to our future economic stability and prosperity. Any trade deal with the EU, with whom we have most of that trade deficit, will only increase that deficit and make matters worse. Instead we should concentrate on deals with countries with whom we are in surplus, such as the US and Australia – see my post at jepoynton.com/2016/09/01/do-i-believe-in-free-trade.

    The arguments for Brexit range over many issues – yes, including the strong sense of cultural displacement felt by many, especially outside London. They are perfectly entitled to express those misgivings and vote accordingly in a free democracy. Most of these people are ex-Labour. There is nothing racist or right-wing about that. They are moving into the centre in order to create a more balanced and cohesive society, leaving outmoded class warfare behind.

  16. Hugh permalink
    October 11, 2016

    In terms of the existential problems of overpopulation, climate change, resource exhaustion, and ecosystem loss, 2030 is a make or break year. It is unlikely that developed countries like the US, Japan, and Europe will have programs they need to deal with these problems in place and running by then, but they will likely survive to some degree in any case.

    We are already seeing the proliferation of failed and permanently failing states: Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. These states represent the first tier, the group whose failure in addition to these great crises was facilitated and accelerated by outside players, often American intervention. The second tier will include Saudi Arabia, some of the Gulf States, Pakistan, Banglasdesh, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania as well as most of Saharan, and Sahel states in Africa. The third tier of failed states will involve most of the rest of Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

    In the Western Hemisphere, we already have a failed state in Haiti and failing states in Venezuela and Honduras. The big question mark states in this Hemisphere are Mexico and Brazil, both of which are already showing signs of instability. In Africa, South Africa has a chance if it can control immigration from nearby states. Morocco and Algeria are also iffy but possible survivors. China, Taiwan, and South Korea in East Asia and Turkey and Iran in West Asia are also in this category. Russia has a declining population, a large land mass, many resources, but may not be able to control its borders or internal ethnic tensions.

    Globalization is predicated on the notion of you getting many of your consumer goods or the resources needed to produce them from states that will not exist in a few years. Globalization is a dangerous fantasy and kleptocratic propaganda. If the failure of the construction of Europe has taught us anything, it is that for economic integration to really succeed, there must also be political integration, and that both these integrations must benefit the people, not just the rich and elites. Globalization is the same process, but far more heavily weighted toward inequality and exploitation, and with essentially no political or democratic component to it. For us to face the problems that are already arriving, we would need both a strong world government and a consensus on a plan of action by the whole of humanity, something that is so far beyond the realm of possibility as to belong to a different universe.

  17. October 11, 2016

    Just FYI, John is an actual UKIPper and has at least put his money where his mouth is, as it were.

    There is no such thing as ‘soft’ Brexit, nor was there any suggestion during the campaign that we should stay in the single market. The latter is just another red herring thrown up by the remainiacs. The tariffs we shall have to pay on our exports into the EU after leaving the customs union will average about 4.5% whereas we have already gained over 10% from devaluation. There is no need for any deal with the EU, and every day Theresa May’s government dithers and delays is costing us over £100m, both from continued payments into the EU’s budget and from lost import tariff revenues.

    Over the long run, it is possible to run a policy in which the UK is at least undamaged relative to its current condition, by politicians who are well-intentioned and foresighted enough to do so. In a short run, this is pure delusion, an analysis based on one side of the balance sheet with no interest whatsoever in the behaviour and motives of the people across the table. People outside the “hardcore” Leave camp see Leavers as political solipsists.

    Likewise, your graph on your immigration post shows absolutely nothing about immigration whatsoever, and you have figures pulled out of the air to justify your analysis. It is entirely possible that EU immigration has had a detrimental effect on parts of the UK population, but it is unlikely to see this on a graph of Real GDP per capita. The factors that caused the 2008 crisis were precipitating since considerably before 2008, the 2008 crisis was only a breaking point for certain parts of the financial system.

  18. October 11, 2016

    Yes, I got to the end and thought, “Ian has lost his mind”, then I looked at the byline. Not that it is a bad post, just that I disagree with the premises and conclusions in ways I don’t normally disagree with Ian. For example, the notion that anyone who votes to restrict immigration needs to be punished, which seems to be the underlying argument.

    Yes, Ian and I are different people 🙂 and we don’t agree on everything, in fact we have significant disagreements on analysis and political approach.

    As the problems pile up, I wonder why immigration into the West is *so* important to the 1% that they will sacrifice everything rather than back down an inch on this issue. Brexit could easily have been avoided with concessions in that area, as could Trump as could so many other threats to the 1%. Are they just that arrogant, or is immigration that important to them for some reason?

    It is not only the 1% that genuinely believes in low-restriction immigration. A fairly classical left-wing analysis, for example, holds effectively that nation-states are a mere extension of feudal power over serfs designed to take away major powers of serfs/workers to resist capitalist exploitation — leaving, class solidarity, and so on. The conflict only comes because the welfare state and labour law, as an attempt to dissipate resistance against capitalism, has actually succeeded in making improvements in the lives of workers inside the nation-state framework. If you believe that there is a way to sustain these gains in the long run, you have the left-wing argument against immigration. If you are skeptical that “classical” welfare states will ever be resurrected, then you would also be skeptical of attacks on immigration as the major source of worker woes.

    However, I explained why the EU cannot make immigration concessions in the post, if the UK wants to participate in the Single Market. (And yes, many British Leave-supporting people, believe and continue to believe that they will retain forms of privileged access to the EU without reciprocation.) For one thing, and just for starters, the Eastern European states whose countries produce the bulk of intra-EU labour movement have the power inside the EU to reject any arrangement that contains no major concessions to what they see as the needs of their citizens, while giving British citizens and business the accesses they previously had.

  19. October 11, 2016

    From its outset the construction of Europe was riven with lies and contradictions. It was an elite project, although one at various times with popular appeal. Its elite constructors often chose simply to ignore or leave to be sorted out later core problems. They chose a strategy of increasing economic integration with the idea that this would promote (coerce?) political integration later. What this ignored was Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity and economic inequalities.

    It was not ignored, it was quite explicitly considered as an obstable to overcome on the road to a political union whose necessity is and was explicitly stated and believed. Some of the methods chosen, such as the convergence criteria of the Maastricht treaty, have turned out to be based on bad economic theories, as we discussed during the Greek crisis.

    I was talking with someone recently who said that when politicians talked about freedom, you should run because they were usually meaning your freedom to be poor and have no say. How do you reconcile, say, the survival of Danish or Dutch with the free movement of labor? Well, you can if that movement is small, but if it is larger, then it can have all kinds of effects: problems with integrating non-native speakers, depression of wages, the loss of cultural totems which are associated both with identity and quality of life, and of course language loss.

    If your concern is the survival of cultural groupings inside Europe, you should realize that immigration, even large immigration flows, are not the major prevalent threat to European “native” cultural diversity. Rather, mass media, mass culture, and two-way communication over the Internet are, as well as the wanderlust of the young. I am given to understand that in countries like the Baltic states, where immigration from outside is not a major factor, the post-USSR young in particular are almost universally fluent in English and conversant with American culture. An Estonian acquaintance of mine tells me that English-language media (think: sitcoms) is broadcast untranslated, and in any case, they all use Facebook and order/pirate media from popular English sources. Universities in many European countries offer English language programmes of study — not a hard stretch for countries that are used to linguae francae for academia, such as Latin.

    But when you have highly educated populations in a global, American-dominated media and educational environment. cultural homogenization is baked in.

    The flip side, however, is that large immigrant populations often support large public industries of local language education, cultural programming, and dissemination, particularly when language learning is connected to such things as political rights and public employment.

    In other words, the relationship of high immigration levels to language loss and cultural homogenization is quite complicated, if that is your major concern.

  20. October 11, 2016

    Jeff,

    Mandos, I’ll wait for your further comments on the matter, but I’ll confess that I simply do not perceive how a halt to globalization would result in genocide-scale human suffering. Would that be actual genocides in the medium term, or merely suffering tantamount to genocide in the medium term, or suffering so severe in its dislocations that it surpasses most of what we now observe?

    This is actually partly a semantic question. I classify globalization into “narrow-sense” and “broad-sense”. By “narrow-sense”, I mean the globalization that guided by neoliberal economic ideology. By “broad-sense”, I mean the degree of technological, commercial, communications, and personal interconnectedness that has developed, yes, from the application of globalization in its “narrow sense”.

    I agree that narrow-sense neoliberal globalization has played itself out. The problem is, it has conditioned the way in which broad-sense globalization has been implemented. “Calling off” narrow-sense globalization without thinking of what will govern the interdependencies that have been established is to me a recipe for further disaster. Because everything, our food chains, and to a surprising degree our family and personal relationships are now dependent on broad-sense globalization, even the bits that seem altogether local.

    I simply don’t see it, but maybe I’ve missed something. I, for one, don’t propose to deport however many millions of Latin Americans are present in the US without papers. However, neither do I propose to throw open the borders, which would cause the implosion of every institution and organization in Western societies – charities, churches, governments, etc. – with the exception of the less scrupulous members of a generally unscrupulous class, the capitalists, who would make out like bandits.

    It’s not clear to me that throwing open the borders would have the effect people say it does — many of the Syrian refugees, as was pointed out upthread, don’t really want to be in Europe. Many refugees know that they don’t automatically have a future if they head to Europe, so they don’t. Unsurprisingly, the people who do are heavily skewed to those who think they can make it, or even really can succeed if given an opportunity.

  21. October 11, 2016

    I could state my position more succinctly and more forcefully, to wit: the dream of globalization produces monsters: like the Goya etching. What I mean is this: there is no theory of representative government, let alone a democratic form thereof, and no institutional form of such governance, which can survive contact with the forms and processes of globalization. The reality of globalization involves governing elites ceasing to act on behalf of their nations, seeking to find some modus vivendi for all of the factions within their nations, as they instead act on behalf of some faction(s) within their nations and within other nations, and against (an)other faction(s) in their societies, who are adversely affected by the “reforms”. It is an attenuation of representation, and a concomitant detachment of elites from their society; invariably this detachment not only leads them to cease representing some people in their society, and to elevate the interests of some people abroad over those disfavoured domestic groups, but to pursue their own interests in connection with the reforms. This is precisely what we have seen in the second great era of globalization. This is also precisely why all of the manifestations of populist discontent have provoked anti-democratic temper-tantrums from elites, who now assert even more forcefully the assumed imperative of elite, technocratic governance, and publish splenetic op-eds bemoaning the pointlessness of a democracy that doesn’t simply ratify elite preferences, much like a plebiscite in an Eastern Bloc country – and not only op-eds, but whole books, arguing that vast percentages of the populace should be disenfranchised, by means of postmodern forms of tests once used to disqualify blacks from the franchise, something liberals then opposed.

    So: globalization in practice: undemocratic. Globalization in theory: hard to see how it could be otherwise. Apologists have obligingly handed the skeptics like me the proofs, in the form of all of those, “Oh, who cares about the working class in America! Look at the millions of Chinese who have been elevated to the Chinese lower middle class as a result of free trade!” arguments. Not only did the zero-sum reality return, but the apologists conceded that they… represented the interests of Chinese workers, as against Americans. Now, it is not my point to argue that the Chinese should somehow, now, be re-impoverished. No, my point is just that, if we are to have a representative government, our representatives must represent us, and not some combination of their class, some domestic allies, and people abroad. That’s oligarchy, not democracy, even republicanism. This is why the only sustained – and now bleeding away – gains for the working classes came within nation-states with representative governments, and why those gains are evaporating as both the nation-state and representative government are tunneled under by globalization.

    This is of course the core question and you are exactly right to put your finger on it. I already agree that under the present practices of globalization, elite detachment is a central problem, because no concomitant structure of democratic accountability is put in place to ensure that the interests of any particular public is correctly represented. That is completely true, and your argument about Chinese workers is also true. I would furthermore add that this imbalance of representation and accountability has itself consequences for the very stability of the system, and those consequences are why we are seeing neoliberalism visibly fail with in all its asset-bubble glory but lurch on without any real reform.

    Where I may disagree with you is whether it could be otherwise. One of the reasons why I have taken a pro-EU posture in this is precisely that the EU at least contains an attempt at creating structures of transnational accountability and a framework for subsidiarity. Other than to attempt to build these structures, I’m afraid I’m at this point going to have to go TINA on the argument: what is the model for unwinding globalization allows us to avoid a situation where we empower, e.g., people who want to violently mass-deport all the undocumented from the USA?

  22. October 11, 2016

    Well-written and informative post, but I’m not sure how you ignore the elephant in the room, namely the defense of Europe’s external borders. The invasion of the “””Syrian””” Merkel Youth – not to mention the specter of Turkey being admitted to the union – showed that the EU cannot be trusted to defend Europe’s territory. It’s one thing to have open borders with Europeans, but Muslim Arabs and Africans? So it was Merkel and the EU leadership that torched the foundation for that one of the Four Freedoms, open internal borders. Why did they do it?

    Why would EU leaders undercut their own popular support? Interestingly, your post seems to address this indirectly by suggesting their “personal” or “emotional” investment in “the free movement of labor”. They are open-borders zealots — and not limited to intra-European borders (which was publicly known and had popular support), but also Europe’s external borders (which obviously was not and did not). So maybe they can’t help themselves. But I’m sure this apparent zealotry is partly just the relentless impetus of the money power: with internal growth drying up, it looks to labor arbitrage with the third world as the next frontier.

    I will not go into great detail about the refugee crisis, and you can be sure that my omission of it from the original post was intentional. The refugee crisis of the past few years (because it was well underway before it reached a breaking point) is at best one of a set of catalysts for a process that was taking place even before that, rather than the principal cause of it. It was not necessary for this outcome to eventually take place, and it is not entirely sufficient for it either.

    As to the motivations, I will say that the neighbours of Europe are Muslims and Arabs, and when there is a problem in the Muslim and Arab world there is no way for Europe not to be affected by it. While labour arbitrage has been mentioned as an after-the-fact justification for the policy, it is not clear at all that suspending Dublin deportations (what is misrepresented as an “invitation”) was Merkel’s first choice, but rather, that the consequences of not doing so represented itself an unravelling of European institutions. Merkel played for time until she could find out an alternative approach to the question that did not require peripheral countries to violate refugee law, to put it in a the most succinct nutshell I can. That approach involves helping non-European countries to assist Germany in violating refugee law…

  23. Jeff Martin permalink
    October 11, 2016

    I’m not, as might be imagined, a fan of TINA arguments, which suffer from the same compositional fallacy as Hayek’s “spontaneous order” arguments: sure, the totality of the capitalist system was not a foreseen and planned -super-object of policy reforms, but emerged gradually, piecemeal, over vast centuries of dislocations and transitions; but each one of those discrete shifts *was* directly chosen by people possessing the power to choose and implement it, people who are (or were, at least) identifiable, and who could have chosen otherwise. In fine, I don’t accept that Necessity is conjured out of billions of contingent decisions; rather, I see the resulting totality as something itself contingent, but less malleable than the circumstances within which the discrete decisions were taken.

    It is therefore, IMO, a matter of the cost involved in undoing undesirable features of the totality. For you, the cost of potentially empowering nationalists is too high a price, even granting the manifest iniquities and failures of neoliberalism and its elites. In my estimation, the neoliberals and globalizers, on the one hand, and the nationalists on the other, are dialectically twinned. I’m not going to drop some Hegelian verbiage, just some stuff that might sound vaguely Marxist: globalization has profaned everything holy to vast numbers of people; has uprooted every fixity of their lives, battering them with unrelenting gales of destructive creation; has prevented them from finding any shelter or solace, economic, social, ideological, from those gales and tsunamis of immiseration; and has thus prevented vast swathes of Western populations from realizing what all human beings – indeed all organisms, period – require: stability within which normal, flourishing life processes can be attained, cultivated, and honoured. There was, therefore, bound to be a reaction; and that reaction was always more likely to be nationalistic in nature, because the natural process of human thought and emotion in such times of dislocation is not the higher dialectics of Marx, which might lead some to propose world federalism, or at least continental unions, but more tribal – this, because the tribal instinct is essentially ineliminable, because reactions tend to directly target the things that occasion them (in this case, elites explicitly benefiting themselves and foreigners at the expense of natives), and because few people are willing to believe – not least after everything that has been transpired – that the same classes who have failed them, by deepening the same project by which they have been immiserated, by erecting yet more superstructures to hedge and cabin and people of *this place*, will solve their problems.

    The tribal instinct can be mediated by all manner of religious, philosophical, and political systems; but it can also seize upon these very systems and/or utilize any number of sub-systemic identities, class formations, etc. For all of the vicious tribalism of the nationalists right, we can observe ideological tribalisms among the coteries of the well-and-rightly credentialed “meritocrats” who pretend to govern us, but do little more than trade favours for those in their networks, ie., those in their class and ideological tribes. Or, consider the ecumenical tribalism of the Salafists, purely as an illustration: they are open to fanatics of any ethnic or cultural background, provided that they only subscribe to a deranged expression of Sunni Islam – because the cult becomes the foundation of the tribe.

    Now, to bring things back around, I take the neoliberals and the nationalists to be dialectically twinned. The neoliberals summoned forth the revival of nationalism, and each side requires the other as its Other, its negation against which the struggle is undertaken. Crudely, the Democrats need the Trumpenproletariat and the alt-right to terrify people into voting for Hillary, who embodies every failure of the neoliberal elite, almost as though she were the Platonic form of this failure; and the Nationalists of the GOP need Hillary, who represents for them the hectoring school-marmish feminist cosmopolitan of their nightmares. So, here’s my conundrum: yes, were the nationalists, as they presently exist, to come to power, things would likely be awful, in most dimensions of life, and for most definitions of ‘awful’. But, like Dani Rodrik, I don’t have any faith that supranational entities will simultaneously redress the failures of neoliberalism, mollify the disquiet they have provoked, all while somehow, in their very constitutional forms, avoiding instantiating all of the injustices, failures, and elite self-dealing that characterize the second era of globalization. The wound cannot be healed by the sword which caused it. And, rather like John Gray, I fear that the attempts to accomplish this impossible feat of political and civic engineering will either fail (Varoufakis, I’m looking at you), or be productive of yet further instabilities and injustices, only of some of which we can forecast. Germany will never do justice to Greece, and the two will never be truly reconciled in one EU; yet solving the problems of globalization, within its strictures, would require miracles more prodigious than even that!

    I should be plain. I do not have the answer. I have no programme. My politics are thus apophatic. However, I do not see any prospect for globalization simultaneously deepening and reforming. For one thing, the whole logic of it was precisely to liberate Capital, and its bearers, from the strictures of the nation-state, which had fettered it to the benefit of the working classes (most of them, excepting minorities, sadly). But leave that to the side. Ethno-nationalism affords no solution, not least because it has been weaponized to further regimes of accumulation and dispossession, and because we have already seen where too much of that sort of thing leads. But again, neither does neoliberalism/globalization, for what economic system, comprehending them both under the same regime, can reconcile all of the interests of the Western working class (the folks in the trunk of the elephant graph) and the foreign workers who displaced them, and the managerial classes who oversaw it all? I confess that I cannot see it, not even with all of the economic and ideological conjurers of the world working on the problem. I fear we are headed for a dark place, where the dialectical twins feed off of, and strike against one another; where the surveillance state is increasingly used to stave off revolt against neoliberalism; where the reaction against cosmopolitan neoliberalism becomes ever more virulent and hideous. And the thing that causes me to reflect, first thing in the morning, when all is still, is that none of it should have happened. It didn’t have to happen. The first era of globalization, the one associated with overt imperial processes, ended in two world wars. So what did Western elites decide to do, lo, before Europe had even been rebuilt? To restart the process! Yes, in the hopes of preventing a recurrence of the first half of the Twentieth Century, but – by the logic of their policies and administrative architecture – by bringing the sort of conflicts that once led to wars between nations into the very bosom of the institutions themselves! Will this strategy fare any better, *in the long run*, by thus layering the political, ethnic, economic, class, ideological over each other, in one administrative structure? I don’t see it. My argument is thus not that there is some easy way of reversing globalization, but that it’s all going to go pear-shaped, kaput, in complex, ever-ramifying, destabilizing ways.

    Perhaps what I’m saying is that cosmopolitanism is better as a lifestyle than as a political economy, and that its opponents will become ever more reactionary, and its proponents ever less liberal, in pressing their cases. Yes, I have drunk deeply of despair, but having lived half of my life (hopefully), I haven’t the time for illusions – with three children, I have to see things as they are, bleak as they may be.

  24. October 11, 2016

    Jeff,

    You do notice that you criticized my self-admitted TINA argument and then presented an even starker TINA argument, don’t you? 🙂

  25. Hugh permalink
    October 11, 2016

    “What this ignored was Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity and economic inequalities.”

    “It was not ignored, it was quite explicitly considered as an obstable to overcome on the road to a political union whose necessity is and was explicitly stated and believed.”

    Seriously? A few English language sitcoms, and it’s all OK, problem solved? This itself completely ignores rising anti-immigrant feeling both internal EU and external refugee throughout the EU.

    And again that word necessity. Well, if it was so necessary why hasn’t it been done, or at least gotten a lot further a long? And why so far have any of the moves in that direction been so anti-democratic? The Greek crisis which started all the way back in 2010 illustrated what a weak and fair weather project the EU and EZ were. When times were good, it was easy to be a European, but when they weren’t so good, everyone reverted to being German, French, Greek, etc. If Germany/the EU could be so generous to hundreds of thousands of Syrians, why could it not be equally so to EU member Greece? Why instead was Greece looted, essentially to bailout stupid, greedy German banks? Somehow I’m missing all that “necessity” and high-minded idealism Mandos alludes to.

    Finally, Mandos has nothing to say about how globalization works in a world that is falling apart. Or are overpopulation, climate change, resource depletion, and habitat loss just so many more “obstacles to overcome” with no real plan or commitment to do so?

  26. Synoia permalink
    October 11, 2016

    Hugh

    Well said.

    However Mandos, and others both ignore climate change, and the fact civilization as we know it IS the heat engine driving climate change.

    It is not TINA, it is TINS – There Is No Solution.

    Take food distribution in the US. There is no conceivable plan which could reduce the amount of oil (energy) used to distribute food in the US. As climate change bites harder and harder, more and more of the coastal area will become uninhabitable – because critical infrastructure become flooded, especially Sewage Plants.

    Refineries and Oil distribution are another set of Coastal Critical Infrastructure. With access to refined fuel, food cannot be moved to market.

    None of this will happen all at once. The tipping point comes when about 10% of the population is overwhelmed by flooding.

    Overwhelm when the time to repair approaches one quarter to one third of the time to destroy.

    Globalization is totally dependent on coastal infrastructure. We need to torn back or we WILL generate mass death. Billions will die, not millions.

  27. V. Arnold permalink
    October 11, 2016

    Synoia
    October 11, 2016

    Good points. We lack the ability to prioritize because we utterly fail to see the larger picture.
    We’re (population wise) way too big and it’s beyond managing.
    There are solutions, IMO, but the ramifications are too fearful to consider.
    It rather makes this election a distraction, because in the end; it just doesn’t matter…

  28. Jeff Martin permalink
    October 12, 2016

    Mandos, I fear we’re getting into semantics in re: TINA arguments. You’re arguing that there are no palatable alternatives to an attempt to reform globalization. I’m arguing that neither alternative is terribly palatable.

    Here is where I see the difference: most people who defend a TINA globalization position do so for both technical and ethical reasons: technological development & etc weights the historical process towards globalization, *and* the consequences of resisting this would be destructive and evil. I don’t believe that technological processes do anything by themselves. We decide what technologies to develop, what technologies to deploy, the political economies within which both decisions are made, and so on. It’s all constructed, all the way down, and the only question is whether we will alter a course once adopted. We can say ‘no’, at any time, if we’re willing to reckon with the struggles and the costs. *Then*, it is a question of the ethics and practicalities of the alteration. Hence, for me, the TINA element is responsibility: there is no alternative to bearing the costs of whatever path we choose; we’re either going to try to halt globalization, and risk the recrudescence of the nativist Right, or we’re going to try to reform globalization, fail, and entrench a transnational, “meritocratic” oligarchy in command of a surveillance state. No, we’re no going to reform globalization, on my reading, because globalization is not based on comparative advantage any longer, but absolute advantage in arbitrage. There’s no point to globalization – as opposed to trade in certain commodities – without the arbitrage; and with arbitrage, there’s no sort of socialism, egalitarianism, etc. Period.

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